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John Linnell of They Might Be Giants Talks Tech 111

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the birdhouse-in-my-trs80 dept.
harrymcc writes "We've published Benj Edwards' wide-ranging interview with John Linnell, one half of the 30-year musical partnership known as They Might Be Giants. He talks about his life as a technology user--from his first encounter with the Radio Shack TRS-80 to his mastery of Asteroids to the band's long-time use of Macs to its pioneering experiments on online music."
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John Linnell of They Might Be Giants Talks Tech

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  • TMBG... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Moryath (553296) on Monday June 13, 2011 @10:21AM (#36424804)

    often referred to as "The Thinking Man's Drinking Band."

    Nerds everywhere thank them for giving us intelligent music in a time when the soul of music has nearly vanished.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by chemicaldave (1776600)

      in a time when the soul of music has nearly vanished.

      Okay old man. Every generation since the 30s has said this about "new" music.

      • Yes, but in the '80s it was true.
        • Just as it was true in the 60s, 70s, 90s, 00s and today?
          • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Monday June 13, 2011 @11:47AM (#36425528) Journal
            No, just the '80s.
            • by LizardKing (5245)
              I know it's all subjective, but for me the very late 1970s and early 1980s were when most of my favourite music was created - music that I discovered retrospectively. Post punk, new wave, analogue synth stuff and "indie" bands such as The Chameleons or New Order. What I tend to find when people have the "80s music was shit" attitude is that I reel off a few band names from that era, and they respond with "apart from them". That goes round in circles until we've eventually agreed that there are a huge number
              • Music saw a great deal of innovation from the 1960's through the 1980's. Sometime in the 1990's, however, the music industry as a whole shifted away from music as a primary product, to sex appeal as a primary product. Rock as a wide genre hasn't been hit quite so hard in this respect, but then, that style of music has seen dramatic shifts, as well.

              • by Pseudonym (62607)

                What I tend to find when people have the "80s music was shit" attitude is that I reel off a few band names from that era, and they respond with "apart from them".

                I hate to break it to you, but they're correct. The problem isn't their memory, it's yours. The worst of 80s music was very, very bad indeed. For every Depeche Mode, there were a dozen Mel and Kims or Milli Vanillis that you've conveniently forgotten, and a few Phil Collinses, Paul McCartneys and Stevie Wonders who were going through their career l

                • by LizardKing (5245)
                  You're last comment also applies to all other eras as well. As for the various Stock, Aitken and Waterman artists you mention, they were late 1980's and even early 1990's. That said, there are people out there who still love the SAW sound - I may think they're mad, as you no doubt do as well, but it just proves the point of my post that music taste is incredibly subjective. Now I'm off to listen to some Einsturzende Neubaten.
                  • by Pseudonym (62607)

                    You're last comment also applies to all other eras as well.

                    Of course! Every era in music has its good and its bad, by whatever measure you use. Especially if this is the era you grew up in, you tend to remember the good and filter out the bad.

          • by Ol Olsoc (1175323)
            Early 60's sucked, mid-60's to early 70's was great, mid-late 70's was horrible. Most of the 80's was fair, not excellent, but pretty listenable. Early 90's sort of Meh, late 90's was pretty good. Starting in the first decade of this century music really started to suck. Way too much emphasis on "babeosity", and not enough on actual music. Licks n' tricks. We're still there. Pop music today is a sort of cross between 70's disco and 60's bubble gum music.
        • If all you listened to was commercial radio then sure. But the '80s saw bands like R.E.M. (who I don't especially like, but at least weren't cranking out formulaic pop), Bauhaus, Husker Du, Butthole Surfers, My Bloody Valentine, the Pixies, Cocteau Twins, the Smiths, Violent Femmes, New Order (yes yes, they were just a continuation of Joy Division - except they weren't really when you compare the two) come to fame of some degree and the list goes on and on. The bands I listed there were fairly big bands too

      • by Moryath (553296)

        There's a reason even the "top 40" format radio stations don't play music newer than 10 years old any more :P

        Think about it.

        • Uh do you mean they don't play music older than about 6 months old? Golden Oldies != Top 40.
        • That's funny.

          Z103.5 [z1035.com] plays almost entirely new music. They frequently play not-yet-promoted music, and have a good collection of DJs who do live mixes on the air as well as at the local club scene here in Toronto.

          If you claim to be a top-40 station and you're not playing the top-40 list, you're just lying.

          • I'm gonna try that station, thanks. May I also suggest KCRW in Los Angeles. www.kcrw.org

            • If you enjoy live DJ'd mixes, you want the "drive at 5 street mix" which is 5PM EST or about 2PM LA time iirc. Many weekday evenings and every weekend they're live from one of the local clubs too.

        • by sunfly (1248694)

          I have noticed this too. On several occasions tried to find good new music on the radio with little luck.

          Of course good music is still being made. Radio stations tend to target people with cash, and although teens buy the most music, they do not buy the most cars, houses, stuff that their advertisers are selling. So they play music that was hot when the generation they are targeting were teens.

          I think there is something else at play as well (no pun intended) regarding the people that push songs to radio

      • by mattack2 (1165421)

        Did you see the latest South Park episode? It's appropriate
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/You're_Getting_Old [wikipedia.org]

    • You are going to the wrong places for music if you think its soul has nearly vanished.
    • by bograt (943491)
      "The soul of music has nearly vanished"? Surely, you must be joking. Either that, or you haven't been listening to enough Tween Wave [southparkstudios.com].
      • by gmhowell (26755)

        "The soul of music has nearly vanished"? Surely, you must be joking. Either that, or you haven't been listening to enough Tween Wave [southparkstudios.com].

        That stuff just sounds like shit to me.

  • They're still around? Hadn't heard about them since High School (which would have been about 20 years ago). My favorite is still 'Istanbul Not Constantinople'.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Yes. Most notably, they have been doing a lot of kids' music for Disney lately. Regardless of what you think of Disney, the music is excellent, especially the album "Here Comes Science," with music that is engaging and lyrics that are not at all dumbed down.

    • by g0bshiTe (596213)
      Did you not see Caroline? Instantly when I heard the Other Father song I knew who did it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Theme from The Daily Show, Grammy-winning kids' albums, a new regular album coming out next month (they do about one every three years), a tour just starting up with Jonathan "Still Alive" Coulton as the opener -- yeah, they're pretty relevant.

      If "Istanbul" is your favorite, I pity you your ignorance and envy you your opportunity to still discover them.

    • Re:Wow (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Machtyn (759119) on Monday June 13, 2011 @11:48AM (#36425542) Homepage Journal
      Well, crud, all the good answers given to you are from ACs. I'm not answering to get cred, just so that people will see the good answers (for those that filter out the AC posts).

      Yes, they are still around. My young girls basically learned to count from "Here Comes the 123s". "Here Comes the ABCs" and "Here Comes the Science" are both very good. The 123s really introduce some advanced information (0 is both big and small, 1 is everything and breaking it apart doesn't make sense in certain applications.)

      They've done music for a lot of Disney projects, TV shows, and movies - Mickey Mouse House, Boss of Me, Coraline (a small ditty), and many others. They are currently going on tour for their latest release.

      As one AC posted, "If 'Istanbul' is your favorite, I pity you your ignorance and envy you your opportunity to still discover them."
      • I guess because I don't have kids and don't watch much TV it shouldn't be too surprising I've lost track of them. I need to catch up I suppose (or have some kids).

      • by SomePgmr (2021234)
        When a geek friend has their first kid, they get the Audio/DVD version of Here Comes Science. The kids love the videos and the friends love the songs themselves. Non-awful kids music is a rare thing. :)
        • by IMightB (533307)

          My first is due to pop out in Oct. and I've put The 123/Science and ABC's in our registry. Along with a couple of other ones such as Bed, Bed, Bed and No! Looking forward to them immensely.

  • ...is a mass of incandescent gas, a gigantic nuclear furnace.

    ^my new favorite TMBG song

    • by bberens (965711)
      I taught my 2 year old the chorus and first verse as a lullaby. She obviously doesn't understand a lot of the vocabulary but she can recite it perfectly. I know most people probably don't care, but that song and TMBG is a helpful part of introducing my daughter to the wonderful world of science.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      ...is a mass of incandescent gas, a gigantic nuclear furnace.

      ^my new favorite TMBG song

      Good song. But not written by them. http://tmbw.net/wiki/Hy_Zaret_And_Lou_Singer [tmbw.net] On the other hand, "Why Does the Sun Really Shine? (The Sun Is a Miasma of Incandescent Plasma)" was. "The sun is a miasma Of incandescent plasma The sun's not simply made out of gas The sun is a quagmire It's not made of fire Forget what you've been told in the past"

  • by jschmitz (607083)
    They are an awesome band and really fun to see live - they are pretty darn good players too - cheers
    • by nomadic (141991)
      They're fun to see live when they finally got on stage. The shows I've seen have always started really, really late, to the point where it was kind of insulting. I remember one show an hour after they were supposed to start a pizza delivery guy showed up to deliver pizzas backstage. Suffice it to say, it was a while after that before they came on.
    • by Andy Dodd (701)

      For whatever reason, I've never really gotten into their recorded shows.

      However, back in high school, I had friends that REALLY wanted to see them live, and so TMBG was the first live concert I went to in my life. While I still don't like their recordings too much - their live shows are amazing.

      Especially "The Sun is Hot" - the recorded version is "meh", almost boring... But when they play it live you have no choice but to begin bouncing all over the room, it's just THAT good.

      Another commented claimed tha

  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Monday June 13, 2011 @11:47AM (#36425522) Homepage

    Does it include an accordion? If so, that makes them awesome.

    Some examples: TMBG, Weird Al, Moxy Fruvous (back when they were still together), MC Frontalot (listen to his backing tracks carefully, it's there).

  • Must be an American thing that so many people here seem to have heard of them - this side of the Atlantic TMBG are only vaguely remembered as being a novelty band from two decades ago.
    • by Lumpy (12016)

      Yup kind of like that one hit wonder from great Britain called the Rolling Stones...

      Just joking... TMBG is not a mainstream band but an intentional eclectic type of band. Kind of like Peter Gabriel.. Great artist, just went off the deep end into the land of wierd and only a underground group now listens to him.

  • Here's a short clip [youtube.com] of Linnell with accordion and singing Museum of Idiots. Love the horn section. Youtube also has videos with the studio version of this song.

    They built this whole neighborhood out of wood, out of wood
    I guess I'll still be around when they burn, burn it down
    I will be standing around when they burn it down
    Here in the Museum of Idiots

    Honey I'm there when you need me, please believe me, please believe me
    I'll still be right where you left me, if you manage to forget me
    Where we met is wh

  • The author of the article seems to want to fit the band into a mold in which it doesn't belong, but that's the way life is. Here's what an " enlightened" employee of /. had to say about their latest kids album: http://pudge.net/glob/2009/09/tmbg-pushes-atheist-propaganda.html [pudge.net]
  • Why they changed it? I can't say...
    People just liked it better that way!

  • The article seems to be trying to position John as some kind of hacker/musician. The question on when did you first write computer programs could have had the same answer as when did you last write computer programs.

    I love.. love.. love They Might Be Giants - trekked across town on foot one day so I could see them play in a little record store (place was packed, so I never saw them in the store.. but I heard them). As noted elsewhere, if you've never listened to them you're in for a treat.
    • by gmhowell (26755)

      hacker does not mandate computer programming young'un.

Reference the NULL within NULL, it is the gateway to all wizardry.

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